Neil Tyson And The Value Of Philosophy

Reprinted from Scientia Salon. You can read the original here.It seems like my friend Neil deGrasse...

What Does It Mean For Something To Be Metaphysically Necessary?

I mentioned before, this semester I’m teaching a graduate level seminar on David Hume, and having...

David Hume And The Missing Shade Of Blue

This semester I’m teaching a graduate level course on “Hume Then and Now,” which aims at...

Is Theologian Alving Plantinga For Real? Alas, It Appears So

I keep hearing that Notre Dame philosopher and theologian Alvin Plantinga is a really smart guy...

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Massimo PigliucciRSS Feed of this column.

Massimo Pigliucci is Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.

His research focuses on the structure of evolutionary theory, the relationship between science and philosophy

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Dear readers, Rationally Speaking is soon going to be (also) a podcast, produced by New York City Skeptics, and co-hosted by Julia Galef and yours truly. Before each (initially biweekly, starting at the end of January) episode we will publish a “teaser” like the one below, introducing the topic of that episode and inviting comments from our readers. Your comments will provide us with additional food for thought, and the most interesting ones will be read and discussed during the show.
I recently re-read a classic piece by J.L. Mackie (April 1955), entitled “Evil and Omnipotence,” a stupendous philosophical essay about why theologians like Richard Swinburne are forced by their belief in an omnipotent, omnibenevelont and omnipowerful god into incredible and rather painful feats of mental gymnastics. One of Mackie’s minor points in the essay is that the so-called “free will defense” for the existence of evil in the world is problematic because the concept of free will itself is incoherent. Although, sometimes accusations of incoherence are thrown around a bit too easily in philosophy, I think this one has the potential to stick.
Attentive readers of this blog may have noticed that those who post comments to my entries often show two interesting and complementary attitudes: a fundamental distrust of (if not downright contempt for) philosophy, coupled with an overly enthusiastic endorsement of science. Take, for instance, my recurring argument that some (but not all!) of the “new atheists” engage in scientistic attitudes by overplaying the epistemological power of science while downplaying (or even simply negating) the notion that science fundamentally depends on non-empirical (i.e., philosophical) assumptions to even get started.
David Chalmers is a philosopher of mind, best known for his argument about the difficulty of what he termed the “hard problem” of consciousness, which he typically discusses by way of a thought experiment featuring zombies who act and talk exactly like humans, and yet have no conscious thought (I explained clearly what I think of that sort of thing in my essay on “The Zombification of Philosophy”).
There has been much discussion lately on this blog and elsewhere about the relationships among skepticism, atheism, and politics.
I like Penn&Teller, the magicians and debunkers of pseudoscience and general inanity. I regularly use clips from their show in my critical reasoning class, despite cringing every time Penn indulges in his “fuck this” and “motherfucker that” exercise in free speech (it distracts the students from the real point, not to mention the always lurking possibility of an administrator asking me about the appropriateness of foul language in a philosophy class).